JKhomecareA5foldingflyerAs a support worker (SW), it can be daunting to work with disabled or elderly people in their homes. This is particularly true with new clients, or if you have just joined the industry.

Here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind:

Be on time: Just like Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit, you have a very important date…and shouldn’t be late. Clients have places to go and people to see and rely on you to prepare meals, go out, or help them with personal care at specific times.

Timing may be critical for health reasons. Elderly people may get anxious or angry if you are a few minutes late.

Even if it’s just a cleaning job, clients always appreciate a text or call to say you are running late and an ETA (estimated time of arrival). If contact information isn’t shared between clients and individual support workers, ring your agency so they can tell the client. If you do exchange phone numbers, please let them know directly. Being late or not showing up repeatedly isn’t a good look for you or the agency.

 Looking for someone to cover shifts? If you’re sick or taking time off, please let your agency and clients know how long you plan to be away for if possible. This makes it easier for agencies or clients to find people to cover times you will be away. Co-workers also appreciate knowing in plenty of time if you want them to cover for you.
If you want to contact other SWs to cover for you, please let the client and agency know before you do this. Clients may be annoyed if SWs turn up to fill in for someone else (even if they know both workers) if they aren’t informed beforehand.

A co-worker who regularly covers services for you may expect you to do the same for them, so repay generosity by replacing them when needed.

Dress for success: Choose practical, sturdy clothing that is easy to wash and wear again. High heels are a trip hazard. Long dresses, skirts, and jewellery (think dangly earrings, necklaces, bracelets, or rings) can get caught on equipment such as hoists. This is not the place to wear valued jewellery as it can get lost or broken.

Jewellery such as rings can catch on the client’s skin when you are helping them shower and dress. Not to mention that using soap is slippery and you can watch your favourite ring literally go down the drain! During showers, rubber boots and aprons help you stay dry.

Long nails can scratch clients so keep them short for PC services.

Don’t wear flimsy material like velvet or silk. Save it for when you’re off duty or for special occasions – you may want to wear a nice dress if you are accompanying a client to a formal function, for example.

Personal hygiene is important. Carework is often physical, so using deodorant and showering regularly is a must. Perfume can trigger allergic reactions so clients may ask you not to wear it. Sloppy dress and messy hair implies that you don’t care enough to present yourself well.

Pay attention, take initiative, and be honest: If a client lives alone and employs several SWs, please take care to wipe down kitchen benches, cups and equipment after use. If you notice something is dusty or dirty, please clean it, even if you aren’t the one who normally cleans. Cleaning staff may run out of time or forget to do something. If this is a habit, ask the client to discuss the issue with the person responsible.

Clients deserve to live in a clean home without being told “it’s not my job” because it was another worker’s responsibility.

If cleaning poses OHS risks, talk to your employer about whether you can do it safely.

If you forget to do something like clean up after cooking dinner, let the client know. Remember to acknowledge co-workers with a “Thanks for doing the dishes that I left out last week. I’m sorry about that.”

If a client wants pancakes but you don’t know how to cook them, find a good recipe.

Have a question? Ask and upskill: Unsure what to do? Ask your client and experienced co-workers how they do things. During training sessions it’s helpful to run through procedures a few times and watch how other SWs do things, particularly with transfers and personal care. Aim to complete PC routines successfully four times with a buddy before attempting it on your own.

Get feedback. Share concerns: Ask clients for feedback and actively improve your service. Don’t be afraid to share concerns about a client’s inappropriate behaviour or unreasonable demands with employers.

Caring isn’t easy, so be proud and do your best!